Boxford - 3rd Grade - Spofford Pond Project

Spofford Pond Project

Third graders at the Spofford Pond Elementary School in Boxford used their school’s namesake pond as a focal point for reaching cross-curricular learning goals and serving the larger community.  As students worked with community partners to monitor and explore the pond habitat, they saw how their work in science, social studies, English language arts and math was reflected in “real world” service.  Students collected data about Spofford Pond over time, observing and analyzing various indicators of the pond’s health and surrounding habitat to report to local municipal officials.  Two 3rd grade classroom teachers collaborated with a retired teacher volunteer to spearhead this project.  All three took part in the Park for Every Classroom summer workshop offered by Essex Heritage and Salem Maritime National Historic Site.  They were able to translate this learning into an engaging project that brought their students in touch with the larger community.

Read more in the Tri-Town Transcript

Impact on students:

Reach multiple cross-disciplinary curricular goals:


  • students observed, identified, and analyzed animal life and habitat adaptations around Spofford Pond with partners from the Boxford Conservation Commission
  • using a “slice of the pond,” (a plexiglass and rubber tube display with pond water and aquatic life) students were introduced to the Spofford Pond aquatic habitat; students worked with 6th graders, using microscopes to examine and record life in the pond
  • students identified plant life at the pond and learned about local invasive species via a weed watchers program offered through Massachusetts Department of Conservation Resources
  • students observed, recorded, and analyzed weather conditions around the pond such as wind, temperature, cloud cover and sky color
  • students created a water gauge to record and share data about water levels of Spofford Pond with the Boxford Conservation Commission 

social studies:

  • students explored the geological history of Spofford Pond
  • students used the Boxford Document Center to better understand local history related to the pond 

library science:

  • students researched information about local animals who are connected to the Spofford Pond habitat


  • students graphed and mathematically manipulated data related to pond observations

English Language Arts:

  • students created and shared poems about animal life around the pond


  • students created visuals to accompany their poetry about animal life connected to Spofford Pond
  • students created a pond mural 

Develop civic engagement through service learning: 

Teacher Gayle M.: “Through partnership with the Boxford’s Lakes, Ponds, and Streams Committee, students developed knowledge, skills, and values that will enable them to increase their civic efficacy and interest in future involvement in community affairs as they become active stewards of their local environment." 

  • students became “citizen scientists” by:
  1. reporting indicators of pond health during the course of the school year to the Boxford Conservation Commission
  2. participating in a “weed watchers” program through the Massachusetts Department of Conservation that helps communities become more aware of invasive species mitigation techniques
  • students participated in an Earth Day clean up of Spofford Pond, connecting this service to their larger learning about the pond habitat and cultivating a stewardship ethic
  • students created community awareness of Spofford Pond and its surrounding ecosystems by hosting a poetry exhibit where they presented their creative responses to the research and data collection about the Spofford Pond habitat that they had conducted

Impact on teachers:

Reinvigoration of teaching practice:

Teacher Lisa H., “Early in our place-based learning project, I understood that making the project important to students was dependent first on my enthusiasm, engagement, knowledge, and sense of learning together. I was as curious as they were… Getting to know and use Boxford, its resources, and its community affairs has been a teaching challenge." 

Catalyst for effective collaboration:

Teacher Lisa H.: “Teacher collaboration was a huge benefit for me on our place-based service learning project. My partners and I always had lively and wide-ranging discussions--- from lofty education theory to gritty organization details!”

Impact on the community

This project built ties between the Spofford Pond School and its larger community as students learned from and contributed knowledge to community members. 

Teacher Gayle M.:  “Families have noted high levels of interest and engagement.  Our other partners have been highly complimentary, and all have expressed interest in continuing the connections.”